Researcher warns of unpatched iPhone bugs

Flaws in Mail and Safari could be used by phishers and spammers, browser expert says

Security vulnerabilities in the iPhone's e-mail application and Safari Web browser can be used by phishers to dupe users into visiting malicious sites or by spammers to flood the phone's inbox with junk mail, a researcher warned Wednesday.

Browser vulnerability researcher Aviv Raff said he reported three separate bugs to Apple about two weeks ago: two in the iPhone Mail program and one in its Safari browser.

Apple has acknowledged that the two vulnerabilities in Mail are security issues, Raff said, but the company is currently undecided on whether the Safari flaw meets its security bug criteria. At times, Apple has balked at labeling problems as security vulnerabilities, notably in May when it initially said the so-called "carpet bomb" bug was not security related. A month later, Apple did patch Safari to stymie the kind of attacks that Raff, and other researchers, had outlined.

"By creating a specially-crafted URL, and sending it via an e-mail [message], an attacker can convince the user that the spoofed URL, showed in the Mail application, is from a trusted domain, such as a bank, PayPal or social networks," Raff said in a post to his blog Wednesday afternoon. "When clicking on the URL, the Safari browser will be opened [and] the spoofed URL, showed in the address bar, will still be viewed by the victim as if it is of a trusted domain."

In lieu of any patches, Raff urged users to refrain from following links embedded in messages. If they wanted to avoid spam, he recommended that they stop using the iPhone's e-mail application completely.

Raff was hesitant to talk about the technical details of any of the three bugs in a follow-up interview conducted using instant messaging, saying that he would not disclose any specifics until Apple patches the problems. But when asked whether the spoofing flaws in Mail and Safari might be somehow related to protocol handler issues -- a common source of bugs in browsers for more than a year now -- Raff at first said, "No, nothing to do with protocol handling." However, moments later he added: "Hmmm. Let me rephrase it. Almost nothing to do with protocol handling."

The spam-related flaw in Mail is a "very basic design flaw," Raff said, that can make an e-mail account more vulnerable to spam. "I can't say more about this, as it may reveal the actual issue."

That bug has surfaced before in other versions of Apple's Mail software -- it bundles a much brawnier edition with Mac OS X -- and has been patched in those versions, said Raff.

Both the older version 1.1.4 of the iPhone's software, and the recently-released version 2.0, harbor the three bugs. Raff said that exploiting any of the three bugs was "trivial" and has crafted proof-of-concepts to demonstrate possible attacks.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of Raff's reports.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?